Despite wet fall, corn for grain harvest looks strong in Colorado
EATON – The two semis were parked along a county road, waiting for tractors pulling corn trailers to get out of the field where they could unload. The fields were too wet to allow the trucks into the field, which is usually the way the corn for grain harvest goes each year.
But not this year.
“The corn has finally dried down, but the fields are really bad,” said Nate Wiedeman a Weld County farmer.
He was operating one of the tractors and trailers and was about to unload several hundred bushels of corn into one of the semitrailers. Last week, he and Greg Wiedeman were unloading into Haythorn Farms trucks south of Eaton. The Wiedemans and Haythorns work together, particularly at harvest time.
According to the Colorado office of USDA’s Agricultural Statistics Service, late-season crops, such as corn, were rated in good condition as of the middle of last week. But the harvest continues to progress slower than the five-year average the service said, due to unusually wet fall snowstorms.
Corn was 71 percent harvested as of last week, 22 points behind the five-year average. Sunflowers, also harvested in the fall, were 27 points behind the average.
However, fears of a wet harvest season across the nation were put to rest somewhat with newly released estimates by the USDA for this year’s corn and soybean crop. Late-season rains delayed harvest throughout the Midwest, which raised concerns that the crops would die in the fields before farmers could get them harvested.
But the latest figures show little change, and analysts now expect few, if any, of the changes in prices that farmers or consumers could have seen had harvest estimates fallen.
The USDA has estimated this year’s corn crop at 12.9 billion bushels. That’s down 1 percent from October estimates but is 7 percent higher than last year and would be the second-largest crop on record.
Nate Wiedeman said the harvest of their corn was probably a week behind schedule and has been spotty as farmers waited for the corn to get dry enough – a moisture content of no more than 16-17 percent – to harvest. Some of that corn was going to Front Range Energy in Windsor, where it would be converted into ethanol. The by-product from that plant is then used as livestock feed.
The harvest, however, may drag on for a while.
“There are a lot of guys who haven’t even started yet,” Wiedeman said. The yield, he added, has been above average “for those fields that didn’t get hail, but there was a lot of hail around this year. Some guys got hit pretty hard.”